When Brian Kidd walked into the press room it felt like part anti-climax/part Roberto Mancini evasion strategy. But it turned out to be a breath of fresh of air as the assistant manager gave voice to what Manchester City fans will probably admit they wish their team's manager had been saying for weeks.
The title race is not finished, as a matter of fact, claimed Kidd. "We are champions and we want to fight until the end. There will be jittery moments [for Manchester United] As champions you go out with pride. If you going to lose it you are going to lose it by getting knocked out, like a great boxer would – not on his stool."
Yes, of course it is a ridiculously tall order. The jitters Kidd alluded to were United blowing the title when eight points clear with six to play last season. Now they lead by a whopping 13 points with City six games from the finish and United five. If City lose at Tottenham tomorrow, United can regain the championship by winning at Aston Villa on Monday evening.
But let's give thanks for someone – a someone who won four titles as a manager and one as a player at Old Trafford, don't forget – coming out to give it a bit of noise, in the way you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson would. Kidd neatly sidestepped the question when asked whether Ferguson would ever publicly concede the title race over before it was over. "You talk about Alex…" he said but did not proceed to do so himself, swerving into another train of thought in the way he is in inclined to do.
But the answer is almost certainly: 'No. Fergie doesn't quit. Or not in public, at least.'
The oratory continued. As he offered a tour of all those "flair" players he wanted to name-check for delivering in spades – Gareth Barry was quite rightly up there, along with James Milner and Matija Nastasic – you could not help but think what a restorative effect it would have if Mancini tried this more often. The Italian only says nice things about his players when asked a leading question about how good they are and his habitual honesty about their weaknesses often makes things come out all wrong. There was a baffling comment on Wednesday after the win over Wigan about Micah Richards still not being fit enough, which sounded like another put down about a defender who had just played his first game since October. Mancini was given the benefit of the doubt.
It is stretching things somewhat to discuss Sunday's game, as Mancini has, in terms of City sealing second spot. The position is theirs. They have a far better squad than Tottenham – and so they should, with the resources at their disposal – albeit that in Gareth Bale Spurs have an impact player of width and pace. But Kidd's talk, using the word "champions" rather than delivering that whining appraisal of United being "lucky" and "five yards ahead" that Mancini takes recourse in, exposed one area in which they often do trail Spurs. Motivation.
Kidd, who said City will probably be without David Silva but should have Sergio Aguero fit to play, ranged off-message, treating Mancini's suggestion that United had been "lucky" with almost as much incredulity as his old boss Ferguson did, a week or so ago.
"I've been there and I keep hearing these stories that it is luck," he said of United. "It is not luck. It is ingrained in them." A contradiction between manager and assistant to rejoice in.